California Interstate 5: A Road Trip Watching

24099_1376311454053_6507475_nThere are trees uprooted next to the freeway. Mounds of dirt clod clumps clinging to thick roots sticking up, awkward, misplaced.

I want to get a better look at them, but I am driving on California Interstate 5 to Los Angeles. Husband and kids and bags and I journeying to friends who said, please come. It is overcast, gray sky low, arms stretching out in embrace.

If I were in the passenger seat, I’d take a photo. Or, I’d grab words and try to work out what it is that makes my heart feel so tight in my chest when I look out. Gnarled empty limbs, cement brown, so undignified, these trunks sprawled, broken and exposed, on their sides.

I am familiar with almond trees–as a farmer’s daughter who watched her dad bend low, dirt crusted in lines of tanned skin, watching and listening to the voice of trees. I know the sharp edges of older bark as it breaks off in clumps, and the smooth, knotted roughness of young bark layered on new green. I know the smell of wet earth and the miracle of paper-thin nonpareil shells the dogs crack open and eat from the ground.

These trees were planted once. They were seeds once. They were shoots that laid in dirt brown and hard, softened by drinks of water, aerated by steel spikes pulled by tractors, and visited by furry gray-brown squirrels and jackrabbits that scamper and scurry to limb upon limb or underground.

Hands laid each shoot into the ground. And the shoots grew and limbs stretched, quiet and strong, sprouting green leaves and white blossoms, and then nuts with green velvet shells before the hulls hardened and opened wide. Downy against thumb or cheek as you rub them close.

The day the bulldozers ripped roots straight out, one by one, row after row–violent, sure–was not a decision made quickly. It was not a decision that was easy. It was not a decision that was fun.

But it was necessary, whether due to lack of water, or money. Or maybe the orchard changed hands.

I hope new trees are planted soon. I hope these old trees, their roots so wrongly bent in weird angles outside the land where they belong, are replaced with new, young shoots. I pray their lineage continues, the life of the seeds giving birth to trees, with limbs pruned and the trees growing tall, before being pulled out of the ground.

Death doesn’t look beautiful, from this angle, as I speed by, one of thousands of cars on a January Saturday afternoon. It doesn’t look poetic or kind. It doesn’t look hope-filled or cause for any celebration.

My hands clutch the steering wheel and I memorize the scene, the uprooted orchards, the story of men and of women and of dreams and of life coming so miraculously from hard ground.

I remember my mom’s words to me on the phone the day before. The almonds will be in bloom soon. Just a few more weeks and the blossoms will be on the branches. The trees my father planted.

And here I see only uprooted trees, disaster, disorder, disappointment. And I know the trees my father planted are scheduled to be pulled up soon, too.

The word for almond in Hebrew, is shakeid, the root of the word meaning to watch or to awake. Jeremiah, when he is asked by God what he sees, looks and says “I see an almond branch.” And I think about Jeremiah looking for what God wanted him to see, and how Jeremiah did see, and how what Jeremiah saw was something of so much beauty.

Father, show us what to watch for. Ask us what we see.

Praying God gives me eyes to see what He wants me to see.

How will we answer? What is before us? What is in front of us? How do we see it? What is God asking us to see?

Jeremiah saw an almond branch, a branch of beauty, a branch also decorating the Lamp stand of the Tabernacle, in Exodus.

It is less than a minute and I have driven past the orchard. I am aware, as I look, that it is a memory I want to keep. I knew that I would want to record it.

Aren’t we stirred, both, by beauty and beauty absent?

And in this moment I feel tears fall; I realize I am struggling to see beauty and hope when before me is disorder and chaos and death.

Let us watch with clear eyes, with open hearts. Let us remember there is always newness, always beauty, with God, even when things feel completely bleak.

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it (Jeremiah 1: 11-12).

Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whatever situation we now face, I pray, sister, we ask for help in being watchful, in being observant, in desiring to see with clear, open eyes, what lies before us, yes–the miracle in the death, the life awaiting awakening, the word of God He is asking us to see, live out, believe.

How are you looking? How can I pray for you?

Linking up with the encouraging and beautiful Jennifer, at #TellHisStory.

Then. Always. Now.

Then. Always. Now.For P.

conversation 21

[T]hings have quieted down now, God. All five kids have been gone for years. D has been around more. I’ve missed him, although you know how I don’t like to admit that to him.

When D and I are together, I remember what it is about him that I’d always loved. He had a smile that captivated me, and eyes that made me feel like I was the only one in the room. He was jealous for me, passionate in his pursuit of me. When he got lost and struggled to find out who he was for all those years, I could hardly bear it. And, while I didn’t realize it at the time, I was shutting down a part of myself–the part that desired love but didn’t know how to show it.

I wonder if I am any good at loving him. I wonder if I am good at loving, at all.

It has been hard, these years, trying not to care even though I love with an intensity that makes my heart feel, sometimes, like it will surely explode. I know I have some healing to do about my parents. My grandmother loved me and held me and always wanted me close. But a part of me aches, I think, because my parents didn’t know how to love me like I am.

What do I do with all this love inside me, God? I decided, long ago, that the best way to love is to hold it all in. Is it okay continuing like this, trying to protect my heart? I think I do it at the expense of relationships that need me. How can I be present; how can I be all in; how can I pursue?

How do I show the people I love that I love them when I’m afraid to show all the love that I have to give?

Then. Always. Now.[M]y daughter, watch me coming. Watch me coming to rescue you. Watch me standing next to you, bending low and scooping you up, just like your grandmother did when you were a little girl. Watch me come to you, not holding back my love for you. I am yours. I am all in and I am with you and I am not going anywhere.

You are made with a fierce strength–but one that is now tender and raw and wounded. You have been trying to convince yourself you are okay, and you are. But let me be clear on this: you are only okay when you know that you are loved.

Do you know how much I love you, right now, just like you are, my darling? Do you know I always have?

Return now to the place where we began. Return to the place where  you first knew me. Return to the moments when you knew I was close and when you believed I was so far away. Ask me to show you where I was. Ask me to show you how I held you, what I was doing in that moment.

Because in the moments with your dad, his head bent low, his back to you in his chair, I was with you, my daughter.

Because in the moments with your family all around the table and the chaos and the fight to be seen, I was with you, my daughter.

Because in the moments when the front door didn’t open and you tucked the children in and you slept by yourself, so many nights, I was with you, my daughter.

And I want you to hear this, my darling. I want you to know this and live like you believe it: You were never too much, my dear. You were never too much to love. You were never too much to spend time with, have fun with, dance with, laugh with, hold hands with. You are beautiful and you are cherished. Then. Always. Now.

Let me show you how I cherish you. Let me show you how precious you are to me. Let me show you how you are captivating and I can’t keep my eyes off of you.

You are the one I choose.

You are the one I’ve always wanted.

You are the one I want to be with.

Then. Always. Now.

Song to listen to: “Rock of Ages (When the Day Seems Long)“, by Sandra McCracken

[T]his is day 21 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

Gather (an inRL story, kind of)

inRL postcardsIscriptsit on the floor of my striped rug, the one with my favorite colors and see us gathered in His hands. I share with women who sit on the couch where my kids plop down and I pile up my unfolded laundry each week. I lean my back against cool plaster wall and hear the familiar story–completely personal and perfectly unique and totally all of ours all at once.

We gather, our heart’s cry to be loved.

We gather, the voice of our own broken heart.

We gather, desperate to be pursued and loved, yet also called to love and to be the pursuer.

Oh, girl, I know. I know.

inRL pillow

I invite people He brings into my home for the incourage (in)RL conference, on Saturday. I am excited to meet women I’ve never met. They register their names on the meetup site to tell me they are coming. In addition to four dear friends–some of whom I get to see face-to-face too seldom–one of the three brave strangers comes. And there is something amazing about opening up your home–your heart–and saying come on in. I don’t know you yet–but He does–and I trust Him, so I will welcome you and love you, too.

And, oh, girls, how He gathers, doesn’t He? We aren’t strangers here. Not at all.

inRL mantle

I write this post with my throat aching like it does when the tears come. I pray before I write that He gives me words–that I speak His heart . . .always, His heart. And I am learning now, in the emails I receive from sisters who receive Loop but who may never comment on this here blog . . . there are women whom He loves who just–oh, Father–simply, need to know they are loved.

But letting ourselves be known and loved is just not so easy, sometimes, is it?

Oh, girl. I type these words for you. We can’t all come into each other’s living rooms when we want to. We can’t all see each other face to face . . . until that one day, girl. Until that one day–that will, indeed, come–and we can.

But until then, there is loneliness, and there is fear. There is isolation and sadness of heart. There is frustration and self-condemnation and suffering and hiding.

Oh, Father, get us out of hiding. Show us where You are.

inRL flowers

But, girl–you, here, behind the screen–I write to you. I write to you because I know what it is like to feel alone and what it is like to hide. I know what it is like to want to be someone completely different than I am. I know what it is like to strive and yearn and do almost anything–anything–to be loved.

I wish you could have come on over to my home on Saturday. I wish you could have walked up my bumpy driveway, with the faded chalk art and up the three steps to the porch of my little gray house. I wish I could have opened up the door and seen your face and welcomed you in with the biggest hug, His arms wrapped around us both.

I wish I could have prayed with you and offered you a vanilla bean cupcake with frosting piled high. I wish I could have heard you tell your story and share with you mine. I wish I could have told you how community can scare me because I don’t know what it will require. I wish I could have told you I am so thankful you are here, in all your broken wholeness. I wish we could share together the details of why we are so desperate for Him and thankful for the way He heals. Oh, girl, yes, He heals.

inRL cupcakes

I wish I could have heard what you love to do for fun, what makes your heart beat fast, and what fears come in the night. I wish I could have seen your smile, the sparkle in your eyes when you share what you love most, and the movement of your hands. I wish I could have heard the sound of your voice and been blessed by just being with you. Oh, girl, you would bless me.

You bless.

inRL vase

But for now, I lay on the floor in the dark, my hands on these keys in the front room where I would have first let you in. And you are here now. For real. Because He does amazing things and knows how to gather, for real, even if it is just behind a screen right now.

Maybe, this moment, we hold as a gift . . .because more is just around the corner for us, friend.

He is enough.

inRL beauty

And someday, friend, I will get to see you. And we will hold hands and sing loud and there will be no distance, no separation, no disunity.

We will be one. In real Life.

I can hardly wait.

What is the hardest thing or most beautiful thing about community, for you? I would so love to hear your heart. We can also connect over at You Are My Girls community, on Facebook. . . and you can see the photo of the six of us, on Saturday! :)



Girl, Unleashed

[T]here is something, dear friend, that gets that heart of yours to stir.

What is it?

What glory — in Him — will unfold, as you claim how you were uniquely, perfectly, made?

I’m over at Sisters in Bloom today talking about desire and how the Father is so excited to reveal more of Himself in you.

Can you imagine His excitement as you discover, with Him, how He made you love to do and pursue certain things?

Whatcha waiting for? . . . Head on over to Sisters in Bloom and let me know, dear sister, what is it that He is calling you to . . . right now.

Buckle up.

You, girl, are about to be unleashed!

Night-Morning Light

I will taste You in the morning, when I rise, moonlight still what beckons, darkness covering.

Your light guides me. I will walk these roads and know the way.

Father, the moon still up and beautiful, do You see me?  I run, this early morning, Your words, Your song in my heart.

Let me taste this and see You.  Let me spread this heart wide to this day, all unfolding, all possibilities, to start over.

All newness, with You.

There is sunlight coming.  I know it, Your light never failing, Your warmth always here.

I speak the words of Isaiah —  “No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light. But you will have the Lord for an everlasting light, and your God for your glory” (Isaiah 60:19).

And I run into Your arms, stretched wide for me, and You hold tight and let go and continue running too, enjoying the morning breaking, right by my side.

Can you see Him, girls?  He is not far away, something or someone to conjure up.  He breathes this air, holding tight to your hand.  He is with you now, whether you feel like He is or not.  Amazing and beautiful, right?

JourneyTowardsEpiphany  (Praying for sweet Emily.)

What do you love?

I have to remember who and what I love in order to love Him well.

I remember the first time my husband asked me what I love.  Married for almost 14 years, sharing adventures together living on both sides of the country, partnering to raise three children — he then suddenly asks me what I love.  My reaction startles me:  I am anxious, distrusting, defensive.  Why does he ask, “What do I love?” . . . .

I am thrilled to be guest posting today over at sweet Christina’s beautiful and encouraging place MommaDaybyDay.  Click HERE to head on over there and read more!

So we can connect further, would you also like to join me over at You Are My Girls Community?  I would love to connect with you over there :)